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Squawking squatters

Last modified: 22 April 2009

Robin nesting in tool tidy

Image: Mike Harefield

Post boxes, rubbish bins, clothes-peg bags and even the pockets of jeans drying on a washing line have been found with nests in them, proving that garden birds will set up home almost anywhere.

We are asking gardeners to beware of nesting birds anywhere and everywhere this spring, with reports of nest sites in some very unusual places.

Most gardeners will be cautious of nesting birds in trees, shrubs, hedges and nest boxes and take care when titivating around these sites during the nesting period.

Any nook or cranny

But they might not expect to find nests, eggs, and even broods in some of the quirkier nest sites. We are warning everyone to be aware that birds could be quietly raising their family anywhere in your garden, shed or garage, and even your house and car!

Birds often nest in garden ornaments, buckets, hanging baskets and, if you leave your washing out for long enough, in drying clothes. Blackbirds have been found in a wall-mounted lion's head with access via the ornament's mouth. And wrens in particular favour hanging baskets.

Blackbirds have also be found nesting on car wheels, blue tits have constructed nests in communal ashtrays, and mistle thrushes have set up home on a set of traffic lights.

Richard James, RSPB wildlife adviser says: 'Birds are usually very grateful for the nest sites we provide such as nest boxes and nesting pockets but there are many that find slightly more unusual places.

'We have heard it all – pigeons behind satellite dishes, robins in tool boxes and some birds even get into people’s bedrooms! One pair of pigeons got through an open window and nested on a bed and one swallow pair sited their nest on an electric plug socket in a bedroom.'

Don't disturb

If a nest is disturbed or destroyed it can be extremely distressing for the adult birds and they will often abandon the site. If this happens when the chicks are still in the nest they will likely starve.

It is also very upsetting for gardeners if they discover a disturbed nest with eggs or chicks abandoned.

If a nest is disturbed or destroyed it can be extremely distressing for the adult birds and they will often abandon the site.

If you do accidentally disturb a nest then it is important to leave the vicinity of it as soon as possible so the parents can get back to it quickly. The longer the parents are away from the nest, the more vulnerable the young are. Avoid that area while the birds are nesting. If a nest has been exposed, it should be re-covered so it appears undisturbed to the birds and is protected from the elements and predators.

It is a criminal offence to intentionally damage a nest and anyone doing so could be fined or even jailed under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Richard James says: 'To have birds nesting in your garden is a real honour as they painstakingly chose their sites and not everyone is lucky enough to enjoy the sight of baby birds at this time of year.

'Most people would be horrified if they disturbed a nest so we're urging everyone to be mindful at this time of year.

'Bear in mind that any nook or cranny could be a nest site – they may not be obvious but you'd be surprised what creative homebuilders garden birds can be!'

How you can help

Tell us about your garden and we’ll provide you with tailored wildlife-gardening advice!